7 Lessons You'll Learn on a Monterey Field Trip
Since travel has been less available to us this year, Travelzoo staffers have begun expanding our horizons in new ways. Between home schooling and taking conference calls from the kitchen table, some of us learned to grow potatoes or studied design in online courses, while others made sourdough starters. Learning, we found, can be as awe-inspiring as travel. When you pair the two? Well, that’s where the proverbial magic happens. And so, since school (whatever that looks like for your family this year) is in full swing, why not take a field trip?
Our top choice for such a trip is Monterey County—where the curriculum is alive, the snacks are definitely more interesting and the gym class just might change your life. Keep in mind: field trips aren’t only for the school-aged. In fact, some of these lessons are best learned without kids—like the chemical process that turns grapes into wine.
Get your heart pumping while exploring lush terrain and taking in stunning coastal views on one of the county's many hiking trails that run the gamut from beginner to expert. One of our favorites is the Soberanes Canyon Trail at Garrapata State Park, with redwood-filled canyons and some of the most spectacular coastline you'll find in Big Sur.
On Monterey Bay, whales can be seen breaching year-round, allowing you—dear student—to catch a glimpse of humpbacks, blue whales, gray whales and, if you're lucky, an orca. Boat tours are popular here, but landlubbers can spy the majestic creatures from popular spots like Lovers Point Beach and Point Lobos; just be sure to bring a pair of binoculars.
Award-winning wines can be found in sun-drenched Carmel and Salinas Valleys and in picturesque Carmel-by-the-Sea. The region boasts 65 tasting rooms and 40,000 acres of grapes. The area is celebrated for its wide array of varietals including its most plentiful: chardonnay and pinot noir. To sample for yourself, designate a driver and head to the River Road Wine Trail which has a string of wineries in a row and tastings with vineyard views. These spots are known for being intimate and it's not uncommon to taste with the winemakers themselves.
Head to the beaches to get a closer look at lauded sea cliffs that freckle the 99 miles of county coastline. An especially good spot for this is Pfeiffer Beach in Big Sur. For a closer, more granular look, visit the rocky shores of Asilomar State Beach where tide pooling creates a habitat for small ocean creatures, like sand dollars and anemones.
Observe physics in action during the many outdoor adventures available in the area. For a lesson in gravity, try your hand at paragliding or skydiving at Marina State Beach, or—for the less thrill-seeking among us—kayaking along Cannery Row where (bonus!) you are likely to observe sea otters, sea lions and seals.
For the optimal learning experience, we recommend that you extend this field trip overnight. Stay at Carmel Valley Ranch where there are 500 acres packed with nature. There, you can meet goats, learn about beekeeping and tour the ranch's organic garden. The food served on property is (mostly) hyper-local: seafood is caught daily from the coast, eggs are fresh from the chickens raised on-site, and many veggies and fruits are grown in the gardens.
When the learning is done and it's just time to play, you'll have your choice of 26 golf courses—many with epic coastal backdrops, like the ones at Pebble Beach Resort, Pacific Grove Golf Links, or Bayonet and Black Horse. In fall, Monterey has what locals call a "second summer," with 70 degree temperatures adorning many days. Pair this perfect weather with plentiful tee times and you'll find it's a golfer's paradise.